After some fierce criticism during his inaugural season as artistic director of London’s historic Old Vic, Kevin Spacey must have sensed there was a lot riding on last night’s opening of Richard II, the first offering of his second season in which he made his UK Shakespearean debut tackling the title role, directed by Trevor Nunn.
And any first night jitters can’t have been helped by a power cut in the Waterloo area – referred to in several reports - which disrupted the first act and delayed the start of the second. In the event, however, Spacey prevailed and today’s largely enthusiastic reviews suggest that he has at last won over many of his harshest critics. Some of the highlights from the overnight reviews follow.
Nicholas de Jongh in the Evening Standard - “You would need a heart of stone not to be stirred by Kevin Spacey, oozing pomp and circumstance in the empty glitter of Trevor Nunn’s modish, modern-dress production…. You would never guess from the authentic Anglo-Saxon sound of him that film-star American rather than English is his first language…. He makes our own dear queen seem positively middle class in comparison.”
Michael Coveney in the Independent - “Spacey gives an eloquent answer to his critics…. Having set himself the task of playing Shakespeare’s most eloquently self-pitying monarch, Kevin Spacey proves that there is no virtue like necessity – to quote one of the play’s best-known phrases – and knuckles down to make a point.”
Benedict Nightingale in The Times - “Let’s celebrate a performance that is the very opposite of a waste of his or our time. Thanks to his (Spacey’s) skill and Trevor Nunn’s direction, it is strong enough for us at last to feel confident about the future of Spacey’s regime and of our most venerable classical theatre…. Last night a power surge in SE1 upset the stage lighting a caused a delay: it did nothing to detract from the power source called Spacey.”
Michael Billington in the Guardian - “Whatever the odd technical glitch, there was a good deal more electricity on stage than at any time in Kevin Spacey’s low-voltage first season…. Spacey’s fine performance confirms his Shakespearean credentials…. Nunn’s best achievement is to have released the Shakespearean inside Kevin Spacey and shown that he has the kingly authority naturally to command the Old Vic stage.”
Maxwell Cooter on Whatsonstage.com - “While he takes some time to ease into his role, after the interval, (Spacey) is magnificent, shedding his kingly robes and trappings…. It makes me want to see more of Shakespearean Spacey.”
- by Terri Paddock